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Monday, April 30, 2012

Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor

In 1841, Schumann wrote a fantasy for piano and orchestra, his Phantasie. His pianist wife Clara urged him to expand this piece into a full piano concerto. In 1845 he added the intermezzo and finale to make the completed work. It turned out to be the only piano concerto that Schumann completed. The work premiered in Leipzig on 1 January 1846 with Clara playing the solo part. Ferdinand Hiller, the work's dedicatee, conducted.

Robert Schumann, Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54, 1845
Martha Argerich, piano
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Ricardo Chailly, conductor
(00:31) I. Allegro affettuoso(A minor)
(15:35) II. Intermezzo:Andantino grazioso (F Major)
(21:23) III. Allegro vivace(A Major)
(video by capitantotti)

(Robert Schumann)


Schumann: Toccata

Geert Dehoux:
Toccata originally comes from toccare, which means to touch. ToccatA is the female passive form of something which is touched, nothing more. Later it became a pièce de bravoure, using lots of notes and a strict rhythm. However, we recognize the poet Schumann in the short melody , he repeats 5 times. In my opinion, no one understood this better than the older Gilels. Therefore, shouldn't the tempo be based on that melody, rather than on empty notes?

Crazy performance. Richter is the best.

(Robert Schumann)


Schumann: Träumerei

Room of music in Schumann House, Zwickau
no copyright infringement intended

Schumann: Träumerei
from Kinderszenen Op.15, 1838
Mark Farago, piano
Recorded live on March 14, 2007
at Schloss Kössern, Germany
(video by Mark Farago)

(Robert Schumann)


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Robert Schumann

(Old Masters)


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heine: Allnächtlich im Traume

Musical sheet from Schumann's score for Heine's Allnächtlich im Traume
no copyright infringement intended

Allnächtlich im Traume seh ich dich,
Und sehe dich freundlich grüßen,
Und lautaufweinend stürz ich mich
Zu deinen süßen Füßen.

Du siehst mich an wehmütiglich,
Und schüttelst das blonde Köpfchen;
Aus deinen Augen schleichen sich
Die Perlentränentröpfchen.

Du sagst mir heimlich ein leises Wort,
Und gibst mir den Strauß von Zypressen.
Ich wache auf, und der Strauß ist fort,
Und das Wort hab ich vergessen.

A superb example of Heine's elegant balance between lyricism and self-irony. Mendelssohn and Schumann offered scores for this poem.

Robert Schumann: Dichterliebe - Allnächtlich im Traume seh ich Dich
Wiebke Hoogklimmer, Contralto - Patrick Walliser, Piano
(video by wiebkecontralto)

Here is a non-literal translation, done by Hal Draper:

Nightly I see you in dreams-you speak,
With kindliness sincerest,
I throw myself, weeping aloud and weak
At your sweet feet, my dearest.

You look at me with wistful woe,
And shake your golden curls;
And stealing from your eyes there flow
The teardrops like to pearls.

You breathe in my ear a secret word,
A garland of cypress for token.
I wake; it is gone; the dream is blurred,
And forgotten the word that was spoken.

(Heinrich Heine)

(Robert Schumann)

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Arvid in Fort Worth

(P&C Art)


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heinrich Heine

This statue had a dramatic life. The birth was in a marvelous place, blessed by gods and by nature, then it had to err continually, like damned by a terrible spell, to hide for long years, till finding the city willing to accept its presence and to honor the monument as deserved.

The statue had been commissioned by the Empress of Austria Elisabeth (Sissi) for her Achilleion palace, on the island of Corfu. Let's describe a little bit this birthplace: it was celebrating the great love of the Empress for the Greek mythology, and was abundant in paintings and statues with heroes and scenes from the Trojan War - a reenactment of the Antique universe, surrounded by the ever green nature of Corfu, and bathed by a sky ever blue.

The statue of Heine was placed in a small classic temple in the garden of Achilleion. Says Oscar Levy in his introduction to Heine's Atta Troll, Elizabeth felt a sentimental affinity with the poet; his unhappiness, his Weltschmerz, touched a responsive chord in her own unhappy heart. It was after the tragedy of Mayerling, and Achilleion was for the Empress a way to alleviate the terrible loss of her son, Archduke Rudolf: a conjunction of Greek culture, and sun, and sea, and poetry.

Achilleion and its whole environment calls in my mind another place with another story: the villa of San Michele on the island of Capri. Also the Castle built by Queen Marie of Romania at Balchik. There are such places blessed by a special light, by a ever blue sky and an ever bright sun, by the vicinity of sea, where special temperaments like Empress Elisabeth, like Axel Munthe, like Queen Marie, come to get some sort of epiphany. Such places are blessed, such people are blessed, sensible to the beauty of nature, to the beauty of arts and to the beauty of history. They are trying to advance toward epiphany together with their heroes, Achilles for Elisabeth, Tiberius for Munthe, as well as the Saints and Prophets of a generous Baha'i Weltanschauung for Marie; through them, the Antique personages live once more, in search of this epiphany.

The Empress died soon after, assassinated by an anarchist, and Achilleion was bought by the Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II. He ordered the statue of Heine to be removed. For the German Emperor, Heine was but a Schmutzfink in deutschen Dichterwald (a muckraker among German poets), just that. Well, there was a reason in Wilhelm's attitude: Heine had been for all his life an outspoken enemy of Prussia and of the Hohenzollerns.

The statue was brought to Hamburg, by Julius Campe, the editor of Heine. Campe tried to put the statue in a public place in Hamburg; it proved impossible due to the city opposition: the radical political views of Heine were a bone of contention for many. Also his Jewish origin.  So the statue stayed for a while in the garden of Campe, then in a cellar. By 1926, the statue was moved to a public place in Altona. In 1933 Nazis came to power, and the statue was saved by Campe's daughter, who took it in a lorry and departed for Toulon, in France. The statue had then to pass the Nazi occupation of France, and it survived hidden in a crate. Finally, in 1956, the statue was re-erected in a public spot of Toulon.

Was Heine a Romantic? There is no simple answer. He has many reasons to claim his belonging to the school of Hugo and Lamartine. His lyric chord attained a classic perfection in its simplicity: any more word  added in any of his verses would spoil everything; any word taken out from there would leave the verse in fatal pain. And there are many reasons to consider Heine's Atta Troll the way he called it: das letzte freie Waldlied der Romantik (the last free woodland-song of Romanticism),

In the same time, Heine was simply too lucid to be a Romantic, his witty irony fatally excluded him from there and made him a Romantique défroqué. Add to this his radical political views that led to the physical separation from his country and not only: German society of his time was not willing to accept his critical voice, to empathize with  him - in some way they considered him a German défroqué. I would like to quote here again Oscar Levy:

He was one of those poets--of whom the nineteenth century produced only a few, but those amongst the greatest--who had begun to distrust the capacity of the reigning aristocracy, who knew what to expect from the rising bourgeoisie, and who were nevertheless not romantic enough to believe in the people and the wonderful possibilities hidden in them... All these poets have experienced a fate surprisingly similar, and their relationship to their respective countries reminds one of those unhappy matrimonial alliances which--for social or religious reasons--no divorce can ever dissolve. And, worse than that, no separation either, for a poet is--through his mother tongue--so intimately wedded to his country that not even a separation can effect any sort of relief in such a desperate case.

(German and Nordic Literature)

(Empress Sissi)

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A Hymn to New England

The Colors of New England
no copyright infringement intended

I dedicate this post to Deborah Schafer, who lives in the Red Sox Nation. She is a great lover of Romania and of  Romanian language.

(New England)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Manea: Sharki

no copyright infringement intended

Este o manea din secolul al nousprezecelea: un manuscris gasit la Manastirea Caldarusani. Este interpretata de catre formatia Anton Pann. Orchestratia ii apartine lui Constantin Raileanu, dirijorul formatiei.

(Anton Pann)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Richard Strauss: Salomé

... elle commence la lubrique danse qui doit réveiller les sens assoupis du vieil Hérode....

A biblical story has several levels of meaning. It belongs to the sacred space, while the story as it is told comes from a historical context far away from ours: different values, different mentalities (Dante in his La Vita Nuova was enumerating four levels of meaning: literal/historical, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical; see also Hugh of St. Victor, De scripturis et scriptoribus sacris).

No wonder the text telling the story of St. John the Baptist's beheading appears today as having a clear doze of male chauvinism (probably the normality two thousand years ago: the good side was populated exclusively by men, the bad side by women - even Herod ultimately being the victim of an inner conflict between the wish to spare the Baptist's life and the duty to keep his word).

Then, were we to judge that text strictly for itself, giving up all other levels of meaning, we should note the obvious: there is a lack of motivation in the actions of Salomé! Was she obedient to her mother up to the threshold of murder? Maybe, however someone cannot be just obedient. While all other personages appear strongly motivated in their intentions and decisions, Salomé remains a mystery.

By the way, even her name is arguable, as the text is a bit ambiguous, the daughter of the said Herodias: for some, the correct translation of the phrase from the Gospel would have been the daughter said (or named) Herodias, thus daughter and mother sharing the same name. And we can find either name, Herodias or Salomé, in the literature devoted to her throughout the centuries. However the scholars seem to agree today that the name of the daughter was Salomé.

I think the Salomé's painted by Titian and by Cranach the Elder deserve a separate discussion, as great approaches to the mystery, but the preoccupation for this personage was much earlier than Renaissance.  Her image entered the European fairy tales, where it was mixed with other folkloric personages. Here is a fragment from Jacob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie (I am taking a large chunk from his text, as I think it shows a gradual evolution in the way of judging Salomé's deed):

The story of (Salomé), whose dancing brought about the beheading of John the Baptist, must have produced a peculiarly deep impression in the early part of the Middle Ages, and in more than one way got mixed up with fables. Religious poets treat the subject in full, and with relish... It was imagined, that on account of her thoughtless rather than malicious act (for the proposal came from her revengeful mother), the daughter was condemned to roam about in company with evil and devilish spirits. She is placed at the head of the furious host or of witches' nightly expeditions, together with Diana, with Holda and Perchta, or in their stead. ... She was inflamed by love for John, which he did not return; when his head is brought in on a charger, she would fain have covered it with tears and kisses, but it draws back, and begins to blow hard at her; the hapless maid is whirled into empty space, and there she hangs for ever...

Heine was within this universe of German mythology when writing:
She who craved the Baptist's head.
For this crimson crime was she
Banned and cursed. Now in this chase
Must she ride, a wandering spook
Till the dawn of Judgment Day.
Still within her hands she bears
Of the Prophet, still she kisses--
Kisses it with fiery lips.
For she loved the Prophet once,
Though the Bible naught reveals,

I would say that Heine, following the German folkloric tradition, offered for Salomé an epilog (damned for eternity), without being preoccupied too much about what had happened in the day of beheading (however mentioning a motivation for the fact, as odd as it could be: the girl had been fascinated by John's beauty, and the only way to keep him close was to have his head!).

An opposite approach was taken by Flaubert (Trois Contes): not particularly interested in depicting the personality of  Salomé, he was rather attracted by the rich setting of the royal court of Hérode. He made a reenactment, populating the scene with a rich texture of people of the palace, military in the suite of the Roman Prefect, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Nazarenes, occasion to put together conflicting political interests and religious views, and to capture this way a formula for the times of Christianity birth.

By leaving the personality of Salomé somehow in the shadows, Flaubert was different not only from the German poet; also from the other French language authors of the second half of 19th century who dealt with this story. They all had the focus on Salomé. It was the epoch of Parnassians and Decadents, and meditations on the concept of femme fatale belonged to their realm.

For a Parnassian like Théodore de Banville (Les baisers de pierre, in the volume Les Cariatides) the dancer was reason for Hedonistic awe - any moral teaching was left totally aside (svelte en ses riches habits, / portant sur un plat d'or constellé de rubis / la tête de saint Jean-Baptiste qui ruisselle, / nous résume très bien l'histoire universelle ; / car le sage est toujours celui qui ... admire ses yeux noirs et les fleurs de l' étoffe).

As for the Decadents, the concept of femme fatale was, beyond beauty celebration, a basis to meditate on those dangerous desires deeply hidden in the inner of human soul, working to destroy everything around and ultimately working on self-destruction: the tragedy in the day of Baptist's beheading, seen as the tragedy of all those present, including Salomé; the image of a universe in decadence, a universe wishing its own dissipation, while celebrating the end to come with some kind of aesthetic frenzy. Huysmans is the best known example for capturing such an atmosphere, with his À Rebours. This novel also deserves a special place here in the blog: it is a great piece of art. Let's mention now only the rich description within the novel of a painting of Salomé, created by Gustave Moreau. I recommend you the fifth chapter  from the novel (http://www.mediterranees.net/mythes/salome/divers/huysmans.html).

And here Oscar Wilde comes into picture, with his play Salomé, created in 1891. It was written in French, by the way. Wilde gave an explanation, one year later, I have one instrument that I know I can command, and that is the English language; there was another instrument to which I had listened all my life, and I wanted once to touch this new instrument to see whether I could make any beautiful thing out of it.

The play of Wilde is perhaps the most important moment in the long history of literature devoted to Salomé, because it is a synthesis: the setting and the actors populating the scene remind Flaubert; the motivation comes from Heine (but with the clear Decadent flavor calling in mind Huysmans  - and also  the Princesse Maleine of Maeterlinck). Add to this echoes from Mallarmé (Hérodiade) and Heywood! That's something, to put together such different approaches, and to make them fit! So, Salomé falls for John the Baptist, he rejects her (did you expect other?), there is only one way to make the dream come true: to have his head for ever! Call her a pervert, if you wish, or a psycho-maniac, whatever; or see here a universe working for self-destruction (she is actually killed in the end of the play).

And finally, Richard Strauss: his Salomé used the play of Wilde as libretto and encountered the same difficulties as Wilde did at the first performances: never is easy to go so far away from a biblical story! But, as always, every work of art finds eventually its public.

The role of Salomé is extremely challenging for any singer. It demands the force and stamina of a Wagnerian Soprano, while in the scene of the Dance of Seven Veils the qualities of a Prima Ballerina Assoluta are needed. The great Romanian soprano Maria Cebotari was among the most memorable interprets of this role.


And now, after all this long history, you will ask: what happened with Salomé after Richard Strauss?

Well, she followed the moods and tastes of the 20th and 21st centuries: I found a modern poem, by Carol Anne Duffy, who made from the antique personage a serial head remover, no more no less. Here you go:

A discussion about the poet and the poem (as well as the verses) at:

(Richard Strauss)

(Heinrich Heine)

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Richard Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie - and Nietzsche again

The video below contains a recording that Philips released in 1986. It had been made one year earlier, in 1985: Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony Op. 64, performed by Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (RCO: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), conducted by Bernard Haitink: one of the finest Alpine Symphonies, with its stupendous mix of dainty touches, ferocious dynamism, and lyrical tenderness (as IONARTS blog enthusiastically noted).

Despite its title, the Alpine Symphony is a tone poem, of 22 parts (in terms of formal analysis, attempts have been made to group these sections together to form a gigantic Lisztian symphonic form, with elements of an introduction, opening allegro, scherzo, slow movement, finale, and epilogue... however, it is believed that comparisons to any kind of traditional symphonic form are secondary to the strong sense of structure created by the piece's musical pictorialism and detailed narrative - wiki).

It was the last tone poem created by Richard Strauss: his great operas would follow.

The genesis of Eine Alpensinfonie was long and gathered together very different events that had impressed Richard Strauss throughout the years.

As a 14-year boy, he had been in a group of climbers who lost their way in the Alps and were caught by a severe storm. This would provide the basis for the narrative of the poem: Eine Alpensinfonie is first of all a reenactment of that adventure from long time ago.

However, another event triggered the beginning of the poem's creation. A friend, Swiss artist Karl Stauffer-Bern died in 1891, due to an overdose of sleeping pills. It was the outcome of a passionate love: he had been enamored to the wife of his wealthy patron. The affair was discovered and the artist was prevented to see his love any more. He had a nervous breakdown, tried unsuccessfully to shoot himself, and eventually it was the overdose that proved fatal. His love, Lydia Welti-Escher, committed suicide several months later.

Richard Strauss began in 1899 to work on a composition in memory of this tragic story. It was entitled Künstlertragödie (Tragedy of an Artist), but Strauss gave up the project and decided to use the musical material in a new project, a four-movement symphony (entitled Die Alpen), later abandoned as well. It is interesting the link that was set in Strauss' soul between the two events: the best way to express his feelings about the tragic story of love was by writing music about mountains - telling some truths about eternity, and fate, and sublime.

It was the death of another friend that made Richard Strauss resume the work, this time on a much larger musical structure that finally became Eine Alpensinfonie. Gustav Mahler passed away in 1911, and here is what Strauss noted in his journal: the death of this aspiring, idealistic, energetic artist is a grave loss.

It was again the impetus to express what he felt at the loss of his friend, by a transfer of his musical discourse towards the mountains, and this time he explained this in his journal. He needed a construction of religious kind in such a moment, and religion was for him fatally linked to a tired civilization. Here Richard Strauss was following Nietzsche: it is clear to me that the German nation will achieve new creative energy only by liberating itself from Christianity! I will come back to that, and I intend to bring the authority of Tillich in this matter.

Anyway, for Richard Strauss his Alpine Symphony meant moral purification through one's own strength, liberation through work, worship of eternal, magnificent nature (quoting again from his journal).

In February 1915 Eine Alpensinfonie was ready. The premiere was in October the same year, in Dresden.

(Richard Strauss)


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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Carlos Lascano: A Shadow of Blue

A Shadow of Blue, 2011
written and directed by Carlos Lascano
no copyright infringement intended

A touching story in which fantasy and reality merge to make dreams come true. How determining can reality be, and how can fantasy unleash an unexpected freedom? Can a fragile world of lights and shadows show us more than a silhouette drawn against the sunlight? A mixed-technique animated short film.

Carlos Lascano: This is a story I’m very fond of, a story I have been wanting to tell for a long time. A story about dreams, about how they fight to become fulfilled. By making this short film I am actually fulfilling one of my dreams... The idea for this short film had been turning over my head for a while, since I saw a printed image that caught my attention: there were two little girls, in their school uniform, walking through the remains of a city destroyed by a war. I thought how amazingly strong those girls were, moving on with their lives on such an adverse environment, even playing around the rubble. And then I realized that maybe it was not that they were strong, it was that children are usually protected by some sort of childhood magic that help them keep their fantasies and imagination alive even when surrounded by despair.

You can watch the movie going to:

Carlos Lascano: For the shadow sequence I wanted to bring the character down to a more realistic level, so instead of an animated character, I used a real person. Since we were going to use only her silhouette, she had to face the camera in a way that would not leave a weird shape. Every movement had to be carefully planned, since her body had to express a wide range of emotions that could not be supported with facial expressions. Working with an actress also allowed me to obtain certain creative feedback from her that was later applied to the character.

(Carlos Lascano)


Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos

Titian - Bacchus and Ariadne, 1523
oil on canvas
London National Gallery

no copyright infringement intended

The tragic legend of Ariadne rendered in an opera within an opera: a dramatic opera in the great German tradition, interrupted every now and then by a commedia dell'arte troupe- the sorrows of Ariadne commented in a burlesque way; actually a superbly crafted interweaving of opera seria and opera buffa.

The creation of this opera was convoluted: it started as a divertimento that was to follow the representation of a comedy by Molière (Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, for which Strauss had provided incidental music). It was definitely too long. So it was replaced by a second version in which a small prologue took the place of the comedy of Molière. This prologue was just suggesting an explanation for the change: as two consecutive performing artworks were far too long, they were mixed one another: opera buffa within opera seria. As simple as that!

Here is a representation at Metropolitan in 1988, with James Levine as conductor.


and now a surprise, the lyrics for Zerbinetta's recitative and aria:

Großmächtige Prinzessin, wer verstünde nicht, daß
so erlauchter und erhabener Personen Traurigkeit
mit einem anderen Maas gemessen werden muß, als
der gemeinen Sterblichen.

Jedoch, sind wir nicht Frauen unter uns, und schlägt
denn nicht in jeder Brust ein unbegreiflich Herz?
Von unserer Schwachheit sprechen, sie uns selber
eingestehn, ist es nicht schmerzlich süß? Und zuckt
uns nicht der Sinn danach?

Sie wollen mich nicht hören, schön und stolz und
regungslos, als wären Sie die Statue auf Ihrer eignen
Gruft. Sie wollen keine andere Vertraute als diesen
Fels und diese Wellen haben.

Prinzessin, hören Sie mich an, nicht Sie allein, wir
alle ach, wir alle was ihr Herz erstarrt - wer ist die
Frau, die es nicht durchgelitten hätte?
Verlassen! in Verzweiflung! ausgesetzt!

Ach, solcher wüsten Inseln sind unzählige auch
mitten unter Menschen, ich, ich selber, ich habe ihrer
mehrere bewohnt - und habe nicht gelernt, die
Männer zu verfluchen.

Treulos sie sinds! ungeheuer, ohne Grenzen!
Eine kurze Nacht, ein hastiger Tag, ein Wehen der
Luft, ein fließender Blickverwandelt ihr Herz! Aber
sind wir denn gefeit gegen die grausamen,

entzückenden, die unbegreiflichen Verwandlungen?
noch mein ich mir selber so sicher zu sein, da mischt
sich im Herzen leise betörend schon einer nie
gekosteten Freiheit, schon einer neuen verstohlenen
Liebe schweifendes, freches Gefühle sich ein.

Noch bin ich wahr und doch ist es gelogen, ich halte
mich treu und bin schon schlecht, mit falschen
Gewichten wird alles gewogen und halb mich
wissend und halb im Taumel betrüg ich ihn endlich,
und lieb ihn noch recht.

So war es mit Pagliazzo und Mezzetin! dann war es
Cavicchio, dann Burattin, dann Pasquariello! Ach
und zuweilen will es mir scheinen, waren es zwei!
Doch niemals Launen, immer ein Müssen, immer ein
neues beklommenes Staunen: daß ein Herz sogar
sich selber nicht versteht.

Als ein Gott kam Jeder gegangen
und sein Schritt schon machte mich stumm,
küßte er mir Stirn und Wangen,
war ich von dem Gott gefangen
und gewandelt um und um.
Kam der neue Gott gegangen,
hingegeben war ich stumm, stumm...

one of the unique things about thihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifs opera is the use of harmonium
(which is similar to a small organ)

no copyright infringement intended

(Richard Strauss)


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Carlos Lascano: A Short Love Story in Stop Motion

no copy infringement intended

My Facebook friend Vlad brought this little gem to my attention.

A couple of pencil-outlined birds escape from a little girl´s drawing, leading us through the life she dreams of.

A Short Love Story in Stop Motion, written and directed by Carlos Lascano. Enjoy!

(Carlos Lascano)


Carlos Lascano

Carlos Lascano
no copyright infringement intended

Born in 1973 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Carlos Lascano is a multifaceted artist who has successfully made incursions into painting, illustration, and comics. He finally decided that filmmaking was his medium of choice because it represented the coming together of the different forms of expression of his artistic universe.

(Iberic and Iberic-American Cinema)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Two Pre-Raphaelites: Evelyn de Morgan and John William Waterhouse

Trying to find visual parallels to Ariadne auf Naxos of Richard Strauss I came upon two Pre-Raphaelite artists who found inspiration, throughout their whole life, in the paradigmatic personages of Greek mythology and Greek early history.

When I firstly found in a book a mention about the English Pre-Raphaelites I was confused. Not that I was by then a teenager and I knew very few things about art and art history; but what connection could have been between artists living in the 19th century England and Raphael? It was much later that I understood what it all was about, that Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the other fellows were protesting against their days' Academia, viewed by them as unable to get out of a tired Mannerism: hence a programmatic return to the times before Raphael, to Quattrocento (and to the Flemish masters). Not Raphael was so much their target, rather Sir Joshua Reynolds (whose works are great, by the way, I saw some of them at the Washington National Gallery, and always they offered me some sentiment of certitude, some solid feeling).

Well, going earlier than Raphael, brought in their paintings an abundance of details and great colors; also, I think, some hieratic air - care for getting the sense of the story, symbolism against realism: the primacy of the story, of the semantics, over the humanity of the personage. The French Puvis de Chavannes comes to my mind (of course, he was not a Pre-Raphaelite, far from that, while his care to get the sense of the story, the paradigm, makes me think at him when I am trying to understand the thing).

These being said, let's talk a little bit (and very freely) about the four paintings shown here, authored by Evelyn De Morgan and John William Waterhouse.

If I were to compare the two Ariadne of Naxos, the one painted by John Vanderlyn in 1812 (from my previous post), and the 1877 painting of Evelyn De Morgan, I would say that while the American found in the myth just a reason to depict female nudity in all her splendor, the English artist remained faithful to the story, careful to capture all its elements (the woman abandoned on a desert place, suffering for the loss of her love). Vanderlyn's Ariadne is a celebration of voluptuousness, while De Morgan looks for the paradigm.

And as Ariadne was guarded on the island of Naxos by the three nymphs of running waters, of trees, and of the mountains, it made sense for me to add to the painting of Evelyn De Morgan (as I said, faithful to the story) some naiads and dryads. And let me here indulge in some poetry.

Evelyn De Morgan - The Dryad, 1885
De Morgan Centre, London
no copyright infringement intended

A dryad (painted also by Evelyn De Morgan), looking at us from the hollow of an oak-tree. Let's sing her a stanza from a poem by Richard Le Galienne (who lived approximately in the same period as Evelyn De Morgan):

My dryad hath her hiding place
Among ten thousand trees.
She flies to cover
At step of a lover,
And where to find her lovely face
Only the woodland bees
Ever discover,
Bringing her honey
From meadows sunny,
Cowslip and clover.

As for the naiads here, these are paintings by John William Waterhouse, a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites, also influenced by Impressionists (as he was their contemporary). Here a stanza from Neruda works well (I will come back later to the whole poem):

Eres hija del mar y prima del orégano,
nadadora, tu cuerpo es de agua pura,
cocinera, tu sangre es tierra viva
y tus costumbres son floridas y terrestres.

You are the daughter of the sea, oregano's first cousin.
Swimmer, your body is pure as the water;
cook, your blood is quick as the soil.
Everything you do is full of flowers, rich with the earth.

John William Waterhouse - Hylas with a Nymph, 1893
oil on canvas
Private Collection

no copyright infringement intended

(Old Masters)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

John Vanderlyn and His Sleeping Ariadne

John Vanderlyn, Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos, 1812
oil on canvas
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
no copyright infringement intended

John Vanderlyn spent some formative years in the Philadelphia studio of Gilbert Stuart. Later he was sent to Paris - and he was the first American painter to study in France rather than in England. He returned to the United States, then went again to France and stayed there some seven years, then he came back to his country, and was commissioned to execute portraits of important American personages (beginning with Washington) - also commissioned for some other subjects considered of national importance (like the Landing of Columbus, for the U.S. Capital rotunda). All this happened in the last years of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th.

His Sleeping Ariadne was painted while he was in France. Now it stays in Philadelphia. I haven't seen it, though I was several times in Philly. I came to its web image just today, as I was trying to draw some parallels to the homonym opera of Richard Strauss.

Coming back to his master, Gilbert Stuart, I love one of his paintings: The Skater - it is at the Washington National Gallery of Art.

(Old Masters)